Disappearing Biodiversity


Why Worry About Our Disappearing Biodiversity?

A Thought Provoking Article from James Dyke, writing for The Guardian.org on August 19, 2016.

“The Earth’s biodiversity is under attack. We would need to travel back over 65 million years to find rates of species loss as high as we are witnessing today.

“Conservation often focuses on the big, enigmatic animals - tigers, polar bears, whales. There are many reasons to want to save these species from extinction.

“But what about the vast majority of life that we barely notice? The bugs and grubs that can appear or vanish from ecosystems without any apparent impact?

“Biodiversity increases resilience: more species means each individual species is better able to withstand impacts. Think of decreasing biodiversity as popping out rivets from an aircraft. A few missing rivets here or there will not cause too much harm. But continuing to remove them threatens a collapse in ecosystem functioning. Forests give way to desert. Coral reefs bleach and then die.

Spikes in Ocean Temperature cause Coral Bleaching

of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia

Before After

“In fact, the presence or absence of some of the rarest species may be giving us important clues as to how near an ecosystem is to a potential collapse.

“Such rare species we call ecosystem canaries. Like canaries that coal miners used to check for poisonous gasses deep underground, ecosystem canaries are often the first species to disappear from a stressed ecosystem. Their vanishing can be linked to changes in the functioning of ecosystems, which can serve as a warning that a collapse is approaching.

“Biodiversity increases resilience: more species means each individual species is better able to withstand impacts. Think of decreasing biodiversity as popping out rivets from an aircraft. A few missing rivets here or there will not cause too much harm. But continuing to remove them threatens a collapse in ecosystem functioning.

“Scientists have studied many archeological sites and discovered that every society for thousands of years gave early clues to its own demise. Of course, demise happened precisely because those early warnings were ignored, while thinking: “it’s impossible, can’t happen.”

“The determinate signal of upcoming demise is referred to as “flickering,” which is a change in society’s responses to perturbations resulting in a society caught in a socio-ecological trap that reinforces negative behavior that started the issue in the first instance, thus, preventing adaption.